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The Gospel News

By: Victoria L. Moore

Date Posted: 1998-02-21

Ben Pressley & Total Praise, a Department of Defense (DOD) Overseas Entertainment Ensemble, are currently on tour in Okinawa. The group plays Contemporary Gospel music, a blend of pop, jazz, rhythm and blues and traditional gospel. The six member ensemble incorporate the talents of Ben Pressley, director/producer and pianist, Gary Barnes, the bass player, along with the vocal expertise of Vera Brown, Cynthia Miller, Sheila Phenix, and the newest member of the group Tamika Patton.

The group released a CD entitled 'Make Me a Vessel,' in '93 when the ensemble was formally called 'Vessels.'

Ben, the Director and producer, also writes and arranges all the music. The ensemble is the first Gospel Group to tour with the DOD. Ben & Total Praise have worked together since 1987 and have toured with the DOD for the past five years. The group members are all from Philadelphia, PA. Ben started the group after producing and arranging seven other albums for various gospel artists and choirs in Philly. He felt there was a need for a different approach to Gospel rather than the traditional choir music, which is the staple of Philadelphia. He really wanted people to hear what gospel music could sound like in a different setting. The ensembles utilize the talents of each of the vocalists to fuse together a new dimension in gospel music that emphasize their unique vocal blend and deliver the message. The one thing that seals the bond of the group, although they come from different musical backgrounds and experience is that they are "family." "You can have all sorts of talent in a group, but if they don't get alone it doesn't work."

This tour has taken them to Italy, Greece, Spain, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Korea and Japan.

In Okinawa they are conducting a music workshop at Kadena Chapel One for all choirs and people that love to sing. The workshops, conducted this week, will also be held today and tomorrow from 7 - 9:30 p.m.

They will also appear in concert on Sat 21 Feb., at Kadena Chapel One at 7 p.m. On Sun 22 Feb. at Kinser Chapel beginning at 5 p.m. at Camp Foster on Tues. 24 Feb. at 7 p.m. and on Fri. 27 Feb. at Torri Chapel at 7 p.m. The workshop and performances are free, come out and feel the spirit.

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